D H Lawrence, Kangaroo, 1923

Although Lawrence was an English author, we studied “Kangaroo” primarily because of the subject and the fact that it was written by the author as a result of a visit to Australia.

“Kangaroo” describes views seen on a journey by train between Sydney and Thirroul (near Wollongong). While in Thirroul, Lawrence spent time in a property with the name “why work” which he said epitomises the Australian attitude to life.

Its clear he is describing the varying landscape and flora as he travels through. He describes beautifully the heathland with “the forms all worn down low and blunt, squat”. Then goes on to describe the almost rainforest type qualities of the bush a little further south, with Gum trees, and tree ferns…virgin bush.

The passage reminds me of the painting entitled “Sydney from the North Shore” by C H Hunt 1888. This painting shows the bush up close, yet still blurred, as if just out of reach, with the city of Sydney in the background, as if a distant memory.

We can also compare the passage to Drysdale’s “Rainmaker” as the Aboriginal in the painting is depicted to be faceless, anonymous, unknown. Read what Lawrence says of the landscape…

“Like a face with little or no features, a dark face. It is so aboriginal, out of our ken…”

Perhaps Drysdale, like Lawrence, is yet to understand Australia, it’s people or it’s land.


1 Comment

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One response to “D H Lawrence, Kangaroo, 1923

  1. Hi Dave I like the way you link literature with art. Lawrence’s use of imagery is very evocative, we taste and smell his Australian landscape which sulks and broods in a post war Australia searching for identity. Lawrence I believe was tapping into the ambiguous nature of Australians sentiments about both themselves and the land. I think you capture this feeling well in your selected quotes and paintings. Maybe a true understanding of “Australianess” Is indeed “just out of reach”

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